Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Book Cover Design

People will judge a book by its cover, and it's interior. I touched on this in the post What Does Your Cover Say? How do you escape the DIY look most self-published books have. Well, you can hire a professional cover designer. For some, that's not realistic.

I don't have the money to keep going to a cover designer every time I want to publish a book. If you're churning out more than one book a year, it can get expensive hiring a cover designer every time.

We also need other images, like image quotes. Not to mention the book trailer. I've gone off on a tangent. We're talking about book covers.

I was fortunate enough to win a year subscription to Adobe Creative Suite. Well, not fortunate anymore. My year was over like a year ago. I'm paying $50 a month for Abode Creative Suite. It's worth it. I use it almost every day. Adobe has less expensive bundles. I didn't get those because they don't have all the products I need.

Adobe products are a beast to learn. Once you figure out how to navigate them, they become easier to use. I've created so many image quotes in Photoshop, I can churn them out in less than 30 minutes.

I also heard of authors doing covers in Word and Paint.

You needed to know if there's a trend in covers for your genre. People should know your book is fantasy, romance, horror...just by looking at the cover. If you want to break the rules, you need to know the rules first. To Pinterest!

Follow Auden's board Dark Fantasy Book Covers on Pinterest

Follow Auden's board Horror Book Covers on Pinterest.

I also collected covers I like, no matter the genre. They do tend to lean more towards fantasy because those are the covers I come across most.

Follow Auden's board Book Covers for Inspiration on Pinterest.

Study book covers. Know what a professionally designed cover is supposed to look like. I'm not a professional but my covers do all right. Look at the genre categories on Goodreads for cover ideas.

Check out The Book Designer. It offers some amazing resources.

Stock Images
If you're not a illustrator, which I'm not, stock image are your friend. I use:
There's also
You can also use pictures you've taken. I don't use mine because pic of flowers and animals don't fit with my genre.

The stock images you buy for your book cover can be used for promotional images as well. Once you buy the image, it's yours. I re-purpose my stock images all the time.

Premade Covers
You can also buy a premade cover. Personally, I don't like that option because it means someone else may have your cover. Update: more research showed many sellers of premade covers remove the cover from the website once it's sold. They don't sell one cover to several different people. You can find my designs on The Book Cover Designer and Aubey LLC.

The font is just as important and the cover image. I download free fonts from Font Squirrel. Check the licence for each font you download.

Finding Free Fonts for Your Self-Published Book
21 Top Links to Book Fonts for Self-Publishing

Negative Space
Ebooks have made it easier, and harder, to design covers. Because of the small size, covers should have a single focus and a lot of negative space. That negative space could be a solid background.

Or you can go simple and have amazing typeface.

Color palette is also important, so is using color to make the readers' eyes go where you want them to go. People use programs to help with palettes.

Book Cover Design: Free Programs For Choosing A Color Palette (Adobe Kuler & Color Scheme Designer)

I've never use those program because all my books are pretty much the same colors, except for Visible Through Darkness and Shadows under the Light.

I didn't make my books the same colors on purpose. There's just certain colors I gravitate to- black, blue, white/silver. Besides, horror books are generally black, white and/or red. When you're doing research, pay attention to the color. I didn't know horror book covers generally have the same colors until I studied them. That's why I like Pinterest. It puts the covers side-by-side. 

When are you releasing the book? March- throw some green on that cover. February- a touch of pink and red. October- Halloween orange. You don't have to do this, but it helps. In October, I'm drawn to anything with that Halloween orange.

Beta test
If possible, don't commit to your cover until you've had someone else look at it. There could be some distracting/off-putting thing on your cover that you didn't notice. 

More Resources
How To Make Your Own Free Book Cover In MS Word
Beginner’s Guide To Book Cover Design
Book Cover Success and Failure Explained

Do you have any design tips for the DIY author? If you used a designer, comment with the designer's information! You'd be helping someone out. I'd love to hear from those who use premade cover, too. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Amazon KDP and Pre-orders

As you might know, Amazon KDP allows  authors to setup pre-orders. Publishing professionals have been singing pre-orders praise for ages. All those sales take effect on the books release date and the Amazon rating shoots up.

I was so sure I'd do pre-orders for Chains of the Sciell until I leaned you can't do it through BookBaby. If the book has a future release date, it won't be available for sale on the online retailers websites until that date. To setup pre-orders for Chains of the Sciell, I'd have to put the book up on KDP. I started doing research, looking for pre-order case studies.

On the KDP Community, the discussion was heavy with anti pre-orders.
Pre-Orders? Why do it?
Pre-orders: just for the big boys?

I did some more research.

Author Marketing Experts: How to Boost Your Book with Amazon Pre-Order
Huffington Post: eBook Preorders Help Indie Authors Hit Bestseller Lists I might have to check out Smashwords
Amazon Kindle Pre-orders without Preview not so great for Indie Authors

A pre-order campaign is a great way to built buzz, but it may not be effective if you don't have a fan base, people who are looking forward to your book. For traditional publishers, pre order sales take effect on release day. For Amazon KDP, I've read different opinions on when sales take effect.

What Do Pre-Orders Mean for Your Book?

The campaign might work if you pair it with a blog tour, for instance. But, my blog tour is around the on sale date.

I started to question whether a pre-order campaign was worth the extra work of emailing BookBaby to stop distribution to Amazon and putting Chains of the Sciell on Amazon myself.

Smashwords: 2014 Smashwords Survey Reveals New Opportunities for Indie Authors
Publisher's Weekly: Advanced Marketing Tactics for Indie Authors

My focus for this book is getting pre-pub reviews. If the book isn't available for pre-orders, all my reviews will be up only on Goodreads. I setup Chains of the Sciell for pre-orders mostly for the space. If I get advance reviews, I don't want them concentrated on Goodreads.

Indies Unlimited: What You Need to Know about Amazon Pre-ordering

According to my research, doing pre-orders is the smart move. You're already doing heavy pre-pub promotion. Now, people can order your book during the promotion instead of just adding it to their To-Read pile.

Also, thanks to +Kelly Hashway's tip, I'm working with Patchwork Press. Through their Co-Op program, Chains of the Sciell will be on NetGalley for a month and I only paid $40. Also, Patchwork Press had some space available and they suggested I put Book 1 on NetGalley for a week! Two books for the price of one. So far, I'm happy with Patchwork Press. Now that my books are on NetGalley, I'm hoping for more reviews.

As an indie or hybrid author, these are the things you have to think about. Don't blindly follow anyone's opinion. That's why doing research, knowing the industry, is so important. What worked, or didn't work, for one author may produce different results for you. It's all about what you want to get out of the campaign.

Now the price. Since Chains of the Sciell is about 100,000+ words, it can't cost the same as The Sciell book 1, which was like 80,000 words. But, I'm still fairly new to the game. If I charge too much, people won't buy it. I found a happy medium, I think. Chains of the Sciell will be $4.99 until June 2- release date. Then the price will go up to $7.99. Let's see how this works.

I just did a search for my book and I noticed Chains of the Sciell is available for pre-order on Itunes, Barnes and Noble and Kobo. I must've misunderstood BookBaby's response to my question. They didn't mention anything about pre-orders. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Week in Links 4/24/15: Jurassic World, Diversity Panels, Planning Book Tours, Agents of SHIELD


mxdwm: ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ – Can You Copyright a Genre?
SF Signal: MIND MELD: Characters That Will Still Be Around in the 22nd Century
Neil Clarke: Top Ten Most Common Short Story Names
Karen Woodward: Terror vs Horror: The Anticipated vs The Actual
The Diamondback: What Sad Puppies gets wrong about science fiction and political correctness Five Epic Fantasies with Gender Equal Societies
io9: Why Even Magic Needs To Play By The Rules In Fiction

Writing and Publishing
The Guardian: Median earnings of professional authors fall below the minimum wage
dbw: Ten Great Ebook Production Tools
Justina Ireland: An Unpopular Opinion about Diversity Panels
"Diversity panels do not help further the cause of diversity.... But they suffer from an echo chamber effect that diversified panels, panels where a member happens to be from a marginalized group, do not face. Diversity panels make conference organizers feel like they’re doing their part to further diversity, get the people who don’t care to start thinking about diversity you have to put it in front of their face when they aren’t thinking about it."
Writer Unboxed: Creating Strong Female Protagonists
Writer Unboxed: Shame and Your Writing Career
Jami Gold: What Kind of Advice Works for You?

io9: The Agents of SHIELD Spinoff Will Follow Mockingbird and Lance Hunter
The Escapist: Dark Fantasy Avengers Assemble! Check Out This Superhero Fan Art
The Verge: Netflix begins streaming The X-Files in HD
Nerdist: Marvel to Partner with Telltale Games in 2017
Nerd Reactor: Broadening the horizons: The popularity of open world games
Anime News Network: Fan Goes Above and Beyond to Create 50m Tall Dancing AR Colossal Titan
My book arrived Wednesday!!! Chains of the Sciell is twice as large as The Sciell. I didn't realize how long it is until I was holding it. This thing is doorstop. Glad I split the story. That book would've been twice as big. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Colors of Spirng

This weather needs to stop playing with my emotions. We're finally seeing the back of winter yet we can't get a good couple of days of warm weather. Saturday was a beautiful 75 degrees. Then Sunday came and the temperature dropped to 57. Seriously?!

Anyway, as usual, I enjoyed the brief warm weather by taking pictures. I'm still trying to figure out what else I can do with my pictures. I take hundreds of them and they just sit on my computer.

Trees are blooming. As you can image, my neighborhood smells amazing. Halfway to the park, I realized I didn't take any allergy medicine. Fortunately, I didn't have any problems.

Was never a flower person until I took up photography.

I finally captured 2 birds I've been hunting since last year!

Don't know why this made me so happy. It's just a photograph.

Stumbled on the turtle family reunion.

For some reason, I never took the trails going through Prospect Park. I wandered through them over the weekend and saw parts of the park I hadn't seen before!

I braved the colder weather on Sunday to walk Oreo through the park. She enjoyed it more than I did.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Week In Links 4/17/15: The Hugo Hijack, AvenGerbils, Writing Life, New Movie Trailers & more!

io9: Two Authors Withdraw Their Work From This Year's Hugo Awards I've been following what's happening with the Hugo Awards. I don't understand people sometimes.
"For those of you coming to this late, Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies are part of an organized backlash that aims to combat what they see as "affirmative action" in Hugo voting, which has led to a marked increase in diversity among nominees and winners in recent years." This wasn't their only reason for them hijacking the awards. 
The Connie Willis. Net Blog Why I Won't Be a Presenter at the Hugo Awards This Year
The Daily Beast: Right-Wing Trolls Hijack SciFi Oscars
Gollancz Blog: Blending Fantasy and Mystery: A Guest Post by Charlaine Harris
The Guardian: Feeding the Hunger – female writers are storming the male citadels of sci-fi
Fantasy Cafe: Women in SF&F Month: Wendy from The BiblioSanctum Historical Worldbuilding: A Conversation with Kameron Hurley and Ken Liu

Writing and Publishing
Digital Pubbing: A Look at Interactive Ebooks
dbw: Penguin Random House Puts Ebooks on Trains
Kaylin Tristano: Storyteller vs Writer
The Writer Practice: Why You’re Not Writing
The Book Designer: 15 Essential Time-saving Tools for Busy Writers
Phyllis Zimbler Miller: Evaluating Amazon Book Promo Campaigns
PW: London Book Fair 2015: Self-Publishing Smashes Through- the state of self-publishing in 2015, and what the future holds
Nashoba Publishing: Diversity lives—for books likely to be censored


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Getting Book Reviews

For book 2 of The Merging Worlds Series, I'm doing things a bit different. For The Sciell, I used free promotions to get reviews. I avoided sending blogger review requests because I was rejected the first time I did it and it's a lot of work. Gotten over that. How can you get more reviews?

Digital Pubbing: 7 Strategies and 110 Tools to Help Indie Authors Find Readers and Reviewers

This is a great article. It led me to The Book Blogger List, a database of book bloggers. Most of these resources are for self-published authors. They're also useful if you're with a small press publisher. These bloggers are friendly to the little guy.

I also found The Indie View's: Reviewer List. I prefer this one to The Book Blogger Lists because it also tells you where the blogger will post the review. I'm looking for someone who will post on Goodreads, Amazon and on social media, not just their blog. Posting on LibraryThing would be great as well, but not my top priority. Chains of the Sciell is not on Amazon but it will be once BookBaby finishes with it.

When I'm looking at reviewers, I'm hoping to find something like this:
"We only post 4 and 5 star reviews. If an author receives a poor review, we provide private constructive criticism to the author instead. We are in the business of helping authors, not hurting them." 
It's not one of my requirements, but seeing it puts the reviewer at the top of my list.

I was going to try a service- After I signed up, I got an email telling me they could send Chains of the Sciell to 2 reviewers. $99 for only 2 reviewers. I don't think so. Dodged a bullet there.

Writer's Beware: Beware of Spam Services 

There's also Library Journal. This got real expensive. They don't accept electronic copies. The paperback version of Chains of the Sciell isn't ready yet. I needed to print and bind my manuscript. Cost me about $200. A good review from here could help you get into libraries.

NetGalley. A lot of big publishers and reviewers use this site, but it cost about $400 to put one book up. You put your book up on their site for reviewers to request it. That might be worth it. $400 and your book will be seen by hundreds of potential reviewers. On the other hand, you can pay this and not get any reviews. I would use NetGalley if it didn't cost $400.

I talked about StoryCartel. I've gotten most of my reviews through them. It's like NetGalley only smaller. It's $30 per book. Not bad. I'm not using it this time because I'd like to try a different approach. My experience with StoryCartel wasn't bad. It also wasn't earth shattering. The reviews I got didn't help sales.

If you're publishing through BookBaby, you can get a free review from Readers' Favorite. They post on social media, their website, Goodreads and Amazon. The free reviews can take 10-12 weeks, I paid $59 to get mine in 2 weeks since I want it before Chains of the Sciell is released. They finished the book in 4 days. The reviewer noticed some formatting problems and grammatical errors in my book. Instead of including that in the review, they sent me a note. I really appreciated that.

The Creativity Penn: How To Get Book Reviews Without Spending (Too Much) Money
Alliance of Independent Publishers: How To Get Book Reviews
The Mad Reviewer: How to Write a Review Request
Alley's Desk: How to request a review from a book blogger
Stephanie Loree: 4-Step How to Request a Book Review & Template

Finished Chains of the Sciell's jacket. Took me 3 hrs, but it's done!

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Week in Links 4/10/15: Sinister 2, Ulton #Womenwritefantasy, ebook Cover tips and more

The Guardian: George RR Martin, Game of Thrones and the triumph of fantasy fiction
The above article, though interesting, focuses heavily on male fantasy writer acting as if women fantasy writers haven't done a thing for the genre, which inspired #womenwritefantasy
CBS News: Game of Thrones creates ripple effect and rise of 'grimdark' fiction
io9: The Fictional Worlds That You Would Never Really Want To Live In
SF Signal: [GUEST POST] Jeff Somers (WE ARE NOT GOOD PEOPLE) on Writing and Constructed Languages
io9: The Hugo Awards Were Always Political. But Now They're Only Political
World of C.D.Verhoff: Game of Thrones Meets Sesame Street
This trailer made me jump. I can't wait for Sinister 2!

Writing and Publishing
Jami Gold: Ask Jami: Can We Use Beat Sheets with Multiple POVs?
Writer Unboxed: The Dangers of a Good Book
Yahoo Finances: Oyster to sell ebooks, goes after Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Lexirad: 5 Little-Known Tips to Make a Great Do-It-Yourself eBook Cover
Poter Anderson Media: #FutureChat today from #AWP15: Are publishers getting the #authorsay message?
The Book Designer: Book Apps with Authorly
The Book Designer: 3 Ways For Self-Publishers to Break Into the Public Library Market
Alli: How and Why to Make Your Indie Author Website Mobile Responsive
Publishing Perspectives: New Trends in Book Marketing: Mobile, Millennials and More

Nerd Bastard: ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Entertainment Weekly Covers Include Full Vision
The Teeming Brain: Subversive Superhero: The American Dream of Captain America
io9: A Brief Guide To Ultron's Crazy Comic History
io9: Comic-Con Is Getting Its Own Year-Round Video-On-Demand Service

Social Media Marketing
Social Media Examiner: Pinterest Marketing: Your Complete Guide to Pinterest Success
Social Media Examine: Social Sharing: How to Get More People to Share Your Content
Copy Blogger: 5 Ways to Get More of the Online Attention You Crave

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

It Finally Feels Like Spring

I'm finally out of winter coats. I've never been so happy for 60 degrees. It's so warm outside! Of course, I enjoyed it by taking pictures at Prospect Park.

It was so good to see all the animals. They seemed to be celebrating the warm weather as well. Never saw so many at once before.

Even the swans were out.

And I saw animals I didn't even know were in the park. How amazing is that? Been going to the park for awhile and still taking pictures of new animals.

I don't even know what this is. The head just looks strange.

Never saw a bird with these kinds of colors.

I was sitting near the water when I spotted a small bird well away from me. I was going to ignore it because it looked like a regular bird. Good thing I changed my mind. Didn't know it was yellow until I zoomed in on it.

I usually don't take pictures of the geese because I have a ton of them already. But, I had fun capturing these moments.

This one is my pride. It also was't planned. I was on my way out of the park when I spotted a group of geese. I walked over there to look. I wasn't going to take any pictures. Then, I changed my mind and decided to pull out my camera. This happened just as I pointed my camera.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Is a Goodreads Giveaway Worth it?

I finally finished Chains of the Sciell. I don't just mean writing. Images are done. I've gone over it several times to remove errors and check for consistency. Thanks Kelly Hashway for the Kindle text-to-speech tip! The final step in the editing process was to have Kindle read my book to me. Picked up all kinds of errors.

Finished the ebook and print layout. Chains of the Sciell is now ready to be sent to reviewers. It's ready to be uploaded to Bookbaby and CreateSpace so it can be available for pre-orders!

Time for the heavier promotions.

Last year, with The Sciell, I ran a Goodreads Giveaway. At the time, I said it was successful. 500+ people added the book to their to-read shelves. 900+ entered the giveaway. A year later and I'm realizing all that was just ego stroking. I got one review out of the giveaway, a star review, no text. Yes, 500+ people added my book to their to-read shelves, but after the giveaway, I had to watch that number go down.

In the long run, no sales or conversations came out of the Goodreads Giveaway.

When I was reworking my social media strategy, I pulled back on Goodreads because it wasn't helping brand awareness or book sales.

I was going to cut the Goodreads Giveaway out all together for Chains of the Sciell until I remembered Goodreads emails people when a book on their to-read shelf becomes available. If this time around I succeeded in getting some good reviews, that could help publication day sales.

I did some research.

Goodreads Giveaway: Good or Bad
Can  Goodreads Giveaway Help with Promotion?
Using Goodreads Giveaways to Find Thousands of New Readers - A Case Study

I decided to run the giveaway as an inexpensive way to potentially let 900+ people know about my book. I don't expect to get any reviews. I'm treating it like an announcement party.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Chains of the Sciell by Auden Johnson

Chains of the Sciell

by Auden Johnson

Giveaway ends May 06, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win
If you'd like a review copy of Chains of the Sciell, email me at audendjohnson (at) gmail (dot) com!

For fun, I included in Chains of the Sciell a bonus short story. It's an important battle that took place between book 1 and 2.  Here's an excerpt.

The Awakening

Rayne disappeared around corners. Nocturne never appreciated how fast her child was.

She lost sight of him. She felt where he was going. Down. To the center of the house. Where Dad was.

“Granddad, take these damn shields down,” Rayne screamed.

Nocturne caught up to him. Dad put another shield around the center of the house. He stood in front of a shadow ball as tall as the room. Each layer represented a shield around the property.

The top layer rolled like agitated water. The core flared. Dad grunted. He stumbled back. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he stepped forward and lifted his hand towards the core.

Rayne growled, beating the invisible barrier. Dad ignored them.

A layer of the shadow ball turned to black wind. It disappeared.

A sour taste lived in her mouth. Her chest tightened. The army was going to get in.

Dad finally looked at them.

“Don’t worry. The shields will hold.”

“You old man let me out,” Rayne screamed.

Nocturne grabbed her child and turned him around.

“What’s wrong with Divine and Aliceanna?”

Rayne jerked out of her hands. He raced around her. Nocturne dug her hands into his shirt and turned the brat around.

“Answer me Rayne Stelwart.”

Rayne’s eyes widened. He stared at the floor.

“Divine left with Aliceanna this morning. They were heading here. They got attacked. They need help.”

The world went fuzzy around the edges. Nocturne lost feeling in her fingers. The putrid odor from those monsters outside thickened. She couldn't breathe.

Nocturne closed her eyes. She had to be strong for her boy.

Her power thickened around Rayne. She fed his core more Lifeblood. His warm presence put the world into focus.

They needed to get out of this house.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Week in Links 4/3/15

Fantasy/ Sci-Fi Horror
i09: 10 Authors Who Wrote Gritty, Realistic Fantasy Before George R.R. Martin
Magical Words: The Why and How of Magic
Fantasy Cafe: Woman in SF&F Month: Renay From Lady Business
Fantasy Author's Handbook: How Long Should Your Fantasy Novel Be? 
SF Signal: [GUEST POST] Special Needs in Strange Worlds: Chrysoula Tzavelas on Neurodiversity in Fiction

Writing and Publishing
Ashley Carlson: So You Got A Bad Book Review ... Now What?
Beyond Paper Editing: Self Pub and Trad Pubs: Couldn't You at Least Talk to Each Other? 
Venture Galleries: Do you make mistakes writing fight scenes?
Whimsy Dark: 8 Reasons Why Authors Are Assholes
Fantasy Faction: Reading Life A Writer: Why to do it, How to do it and Why I Often Fail at it
Book View Cafe: Covers: Trends in Cover Design
Writer Unboxed: The Evolution of an Author Website


Club Jade: Convention tips: How to photograph fans in costume
Nerd Reactor: X-Men: Days of Future Past’s Rogue Cut to add 17 minutes

Social Media
Can across this site this week. It's a database of GIFs you can share across social media: Gify
A fun bookish hashtag was trending. Killed a lot a hours reading and tweeting #VeryRealisticYA
Digital Pubbing: Guest Post: Get More Blog Traffic with These Free Keyword Research Tools
The National Law Review: When to Post on Social Media for Best Results [INFOGRAPHIC]
Mobile Commerce News: Social media marketing research shows age and networks used are linked
Social Media Examiner: How to Start a Pinterest Board That Succeeds

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

New Dark World Building Project

I'm gathering my posts about world building to turn them into an ebook. Problem is, there's a ton of world building ebooks out there. How will mine be different? Most books seem to focus on building traditional, Tolkienesque, worlds.

I see an opening.

I'll focus on dark, non-traditional, world building. I need to do research. Is there a reason people aren't publishing books on building a non-traditional fantasy world?

I also need to figure out what dark fantasy world building means. Post-apocalyptic landscapes, mixing magic and technology, diversity, anti-heroes, vicious magical creatures. I'll also need some new content. Why would people pay for the book when they could just read all of content on my blog for free?

I'm having trouble arranging the posts into a book with a nice flow.

Often, I've been hearing publishing professionals talk about breaking up content so readers can only take what they need. The name of the game is personalization. Instead of one ebook, mine could be a series. Don't know if that'll work though. I don't have enough content for that.

This will be my first teaching book. Don't know when I'll release it since Chains of the Sciell is coming out in 2 months and I have another novella that I had to put on hold. Look out for more info!
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